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OUR OPINION: The gift of ordinary life in America

"The Star-Spangled Banner." A 21-gun salute. A bugler at a veterans' cemetery playing taps. These are the sounds we associate with Memorial Day. But Grand Forks also has enjoyed another sound in recent days; and while it's not usually thought abo...

"The Star-Spangled Banner." A 21-gun salute. A bugler at a veterans' cemetery playing taps.

These are the sounds we associate with Memorial Day.

But Grand Forks also has enjoyed another sound in recent days; and while it's not usually thought about in connection with this holiday, Day, in a way it's one of the most meaningful Memorial Day sounds of them all.

Stop and listen. Hear it?

It's the sound of an ice-cream truck turning onto your street.

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Don't be ashamed if the music makes you wipe a tear from your eye.

An ice-cream truck is the sound of normality. It's the sound of ordinary American life, a life that includes -- at its best -- the laughter and happy clamor of children in a pleasant neighborhood.

This particular truck belongs to a pair of Grand Forks co-workers and their families, Herald staff writer Ryan Schuster reported ("What a treat," Page 1A, May 24). The group bought the truck used a few weeks ago, fixed it up and painted it. Now, the business owners create new and pleasant memories of summer for every youngster who hears and follows the electronic tunes that herald the truck's approach.

So: Take a listen. Give your own youngster a dollar bill, then watch out your window as he or she joins the crowd at the "Brain Freeze" truck.

Take in the scene.

Then remember:

This is what it's all about.

This is why our servicemembers fought on our behalf and why so many thousands of them have died.

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America's fallen died for scenes exactly like the one at the ice-cream truck -- scenes that tell of a prosperous America, an America where young people are able to grow up happy and strong, an America that remains -- after 232 years -- free.

It's these scenes of utter normality that servicemembers carried with them as they waded ashore on Omaha Beach or shivered in their foxholes through Korea's coldest winter in 100 years in 1950-51. It's these Norman Rockwell-like portraits that servicemembers today yearn for, whether they're on foot patrol in Afghanistan, standing a lookout watch aboard a Navy destroyer in the Pacific or transferring fuel to another military aircraft high over the Indian Ocean.

And when veterans come home, it's those scenes that they'll never take for granted again.

Enjoy the sometimes tinny-sounding music of the ice-cream truck and the giggles and shouts of the delighted children. Then close your eyes and give thanks to the fallen, because as much as any sailor hearing an aircraft roar off the flight deck of a carrier, you're listening to the sound of freedom.

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